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The Ultimate Guide to Software Sales Demos That Close Deals

If you’re looking for tips on conducting a software sales demo, you’re in for a treat.

In this blog, we’re sharing our top sales demonstration tips that’ll help you negotiate with prospects and close deals like a champ. Plus, we’ll give you the structure and timings for a perfect software demo.

Let’s go! 👇

What is a software sales demo?

Starting with a definition:

A software sales demo, also known as a software demonstration or a product demo, is a presentation or interactive session where a sales rep showcases a software product’s features, functionality, and benefits to potential customers or clients.

During a software sales demo, the sales rep provides a firsthand experience of the tool’s capabilities. Most importantly, they must illustrate how it can solve the customer’s problems or fulfil their needs.

B2B sales demos are usually conducted over a video call, though they can be conducted in person too. 

How to prepare for a software sales demo

Preparation makes perfect in SaaS sales - here are the main things to do before you embark on a software sales demo 👇

Understand your audience

You need to know as much as you can about the attendees before the demo call begins.

Before the demo, take some time to research and gather information about your prospects. Learn about their industry, pain points, and specific needs. You can often get this intel on a pre-demo discovery call.

Cognism’s sales team uses this template for pre-demo research:

  1. Company overview - a brief description of the prospect’s company, industry, size and financial position.
  2. Ideal customer profile - the industries/job titles that the prospect’s company targets.
  3. Sales process - how the prospect’s company generates leads.
  4. Tech stack - the tools the prospect/their team uses.
  5. Rapport - any personalised knowledge that could be useful in conversations/follow-ups.

This helps you tailor the demo to their interests. It also helps you build rapport - an essential skill for closing a demo!

Know your software

Every salesperson who conducts a software demo must know their product like the back of their hand!

You need to gain a deep understanding of your solution, its features and benefits. Familiarise yourself with different use cases and scenarios where the software can add value. Schedule some time before the demo to log in to the platform and use it for yourself.

During the demo, you must be prepared to explain how your software solves problems and addresses customer pain points.

Define your goals and objectives

What do you want to achieve from your demo? Is it to showcase specific features, highlight the software’s competitive advantages, or address customer concerns? 

Clarify the demo’s goals and objectives - and stay focused on them when the call starts.

Create a structured demo flow

The best software sales demos are planned in advance and follow a smooth and organised structure.

Our advice is to start with a captivating intro where you can whet the prospect’s appetite and build rapport. Then, you should outline the agenda before demonstrating your software’s features and use cases. At all times, you want to keep your audience engaged and interested.

Scroll 👇 or click the link to jump straight to Cognism’s sales demo structure!

Customise the demo

This is very important, especially if you’re regularly demonstrating to prospects in different industries. You must tailor the demo to your audience’s needs and interests.

Identify which features and use cases are most relevant to the prospects you’re speaking with. Prioritise those features in your presentation and ignore irrelevant ones. 

But don’t just show features - show how those features can solve problems. What tangible benefits can your software provide compared to others?

Practice and rehearse

Prospects always respond positively to a polished demo and a confident sales rep. Therefore, we recommend you rehearse your presentation several times. Focus on the following:

  • Your speaking voice and pace - are you engaging enough? Are you speaking too slowly or too quickly? Be mindful of how you come across - a good idea is to record yourself talking through the key sections. Play the recording back to a colleague. How do they think it sounds?
  • Clarity - are you using too much business jargon? Are you pronouncing key terms/names correctly? Check these things before the demo starts.
  • Structure - is there a smooth transition between the different sections? Does the demo flow make sense or is it confusing? If you’re having to cover the same ground twice, then you need to revise the structure.

Gather supporting materials

The worst thing that can happen is when a sales rep starts a demo but they don’t have the necessary supporting materials in front of them!

Always make sure you have these items to hand before the demo call begins. We recommend using slides or videos; they reinforce your messaging and make the presentation more engaging.

Test the technology

Similar to the above point - if you’re conducting the demo online or relying on B2B technology, test them beforehand! If something goes wrong during the demo, it’ll make you look unprofessional.

Pay attention to your internet connection and audio/video quality and address potential challenges like slow internet connections in advance. Consider upgrading or optimising internet speed to guarantee smooth sales demos and avoid unnecessary disruptions.

Anticipate objections and questions

Your prospects will raise objections and ask difficult questions during your demo.

To increase your chances of a successful close, prepare your responses beforehand. Anticipating objections (and being able to offer solutions) demonstrates your expertise and builds trust with your prospects.

Have a follow-up plan

A software demo is just one step in the B2B sales process!

Be prepared for the next steps - answering additional questions, providing further information or scheduling follow-up meetings.

Skip to our advice for following up after a software sales demo.

How long should a software sales demo be?

Most software sales demos only last between 30 and 45 minutes.

That means you have to structure your demo and keep an eye on the clock. You don’t want to run out of time before you get to the most essential points!

The 8 stages of a software sales demo that closes

Jonathon Ilett is Cognism’s VP of Global Sales. This is how he structures and times a sales demonstration, weaving each section together to create a single narrative.

How to conduct the perfect software sales demo infographic

1. Introduce yourself and establish rapport

Timing = 3 minutes max.

While the introduction and rapport sections should be short and sweet, they’re still vital. While you want to get to the next stage quickly, you need to build your narrative straight from the kick-off. It’s not about making a sale; it’s about selling a future state.

Before your demo, spend time researching your B2B prospect. Use what you find out about them to build rapport (have they recently won an award, for example, or been featured in an industry publication?).

Build trust by asking relevant questions. Don’t under-share or overshare; just be your usual, professional self. Repetition can help you here - studies have shown when you repeat someone’s words back to them, you build greater rapport.

Jonathon’s best sales demo tip at this stage 👇

“On a demo, you should ideally be speaking for 40% of the time, while the prospect speaks for 60%.”

“If you’re having difficulty getting your prospect to speak, don’t be afraid to use pauses. They’re a great technique for getting the prospect to talk more. Nobody likes dead air!”

2. Discover the prospect’s pain points

Timing = 12-15 minutes.

The discovery section is where sales deals are won or lost. In this part of the demo, you have to discover the prospect’s pain points in order to position your product as the solution.

This is also the section where you want to qualify your prospect out. Don’t waste time trying to sell to someone who will never buy from you.

It doesn’t matter which methodology you use in your tech sales demo (e.g. BANT, Challenger, MEDDIC). The aim is the same - to get your prospect to open up and tell you what’s making their working life difficult.

Focus on 3 or 4 problems your prospect is facing. Why this number? Too few and your prospect won’t believe that you care; too many and you’ll lose focus on the priorities.

Jonathon said:

“Build rapport by asking engaging, open-ended questions throughout the discovery. Don’t frontload your questions though, or it will feel like you’re ticking boxes on a checklist.”

“Keep it informal; ask 10 questions max and give the prospect time to respond. Ask follow-up questions if you need to. Remember a demo isn’t an interrogation, it’s a conversation.”

3. Sum up the prospect’s concerns

Timing = 1-2 minutes.

Use this section of the software demo to show that you heard and understood the prospect’s concerns. Repeat their pain points back to them and ask them if you have them right.

This is a great method for building credibility and trust on your demo.

4. Set the agenda 

Timing = 1-2 minutes.

In this sales demo section, set a flow or expectation of what you intend to discuss next.

Tell the prospect the features that you would like to show them - but allow them the chance to add to the agenda, if they wish.

5. Explain how your product solves the prospect’s problems 

Timing = 5-10 minutes.

After you’ve set the agenda, it’s time for the problem-solving section of your sales demonstration. This is the part where you make your prospect realise that your product is the answer to all the issues they laid out earlier.

Share the features of your product, but keep relating it back to what they told you in the discovery section. Make the prospect understand the value of your product, not just what it does.

Give examples of how your solution has helped customers with similar problems (make sure that the examples are from the prospect’s own industry, though).

The number one rule for sales and software demos is not to talk about features that aren’t relevant to your prospect’s situation, however great you think they are. Only share what your prospect wants to see.

Jonathon’s best sales demo tip is:

“Temperature check regularly! Check that your prospect is following you and is fully engaged.”

“Give them the space to raise sales objections if they want to. Objections aren’t a bad thing; on the contrary, they’re a sign that the prospect is taking your product seriously!”

6. Respond to the prospect’s feedback

Timing = 5 minutes max.

Grant the prospect some time to offer feedback and raise more objections, if they feel it’s necessary. After you delivered the software demo, you can ask them if they see the value in your product. Do they understand why they should be using it?

Jonathon said:

“Ask the prospect what they like and dislike about your product. Then, you can go back to problem-solving, handling all the objections until none remain.”

7. Close the demo

Timing = 5-8 minutes.

Jonathon had some advice for closing 👇

“The best way to close a sales demo is to address the prospect’s objections and show how your product will make a difference.”

“Only once you have demonstrated your product’s value should you talk about price. Any earlier and you run the risk of your prospect seeing only a dollar sign, not a worthwhile investment.”

8. Agree on the next steps

Timing = 5 minutes max.

Now comes the time when you and your prospect should agree on a way forward.

At this stage of the sales demonstration, give the prospect control. Ask them what they want to do next. If they want to talk again, schedule time in the diary before the demo ends.

Jonathon said:

“If there are other decision-makers involved, and other hoops (legal, IT or procurement etc.), you must talk about them at this point.”

“But above all, get the prospect excited. Make them look forward to using your product. After all, you’ve just shown them how it will make their problems disappear!”

How to follow up after a software sales demo

Congratulations! You just delivered a perfect B2B sales demo. But it’s not over yet…

Here are some things to do after you’ve finished your demo 👇

Ace your follow-up email

Once you’ve said your goodbyes, your next task is to compose a follow-up email that documents everything you and the prospect talked about.

Here’s what to include in a sales demo follow-up email:

  • How much you enjoyed showing them your product!
  • The key points of what you talked about (if possible, include a recording of your software demo).
  • Clear and concise next steps.
  • Include any extra information at the end.

Best practice for the follow-up email is to imagine every message you send will be sent to someone else. Chances are, it will - on average, there are 7 people involved in any B2B buying decision!

So your sales demo follow-up must be clear, detailed and professionally written. No grammar errors or typos!

Share relevant materials

Provide any relevant materials or resources that were discussed or promised during the demo. This could include case studies, whitepapers, testimonials, or demo recordings. 

Make it easy for prospects to access these materials and further explore your software’s benefits.

Schedule a follow-up meeting

Propose a follow-up meeting or call to continue the conversation and discuss next steps. 

This could include:

  • A deeper dive into specific features.
  • A discussion about pricing and implementation.
  • A presentation to other decision-makers in their organisation.

The bottom line is to keep the momentum up! That’s the best way to ensure your demo leads to a positive outcome.

Stay responsive and available

Don’t turn into a ghost after the demo ends!

Be responsive to any additional requests from your prospect. Promptly address their queries and provide them with follow-up materials or assistance.

This shows them that you’re a reliable and committed partner in the sales process.

Maintain regular communication

Even if the prospect isn’t ready to move forward, you should still maintain regular communication with them. Software sales is a marathon, not a sprint; nurturing relationships is just as important as closing deals.

Share relevant updates, industry insights and educational content. This will keep you on their radar and (hopefully!) guide them to make a decision.

Offer a trial or demo version

If your company offers it, suggest that your prospect signs up for a free trial or demo version of your software. 

This allows potential customers to experience it firsthand and decide if it’s suitable for their needs.

Be persistent but not pushy

Everyone in the world hates a pushy salesperson!

Following up is important but you don’t want to appear aggressive or annoying. Respect the prospect’s time and decision-making process. Remember how long sales cycles can be at B2B SaaS companies - often, deals have to go through many layers of approval before being signed off.

So, tailor your follow-ups to their level of interest and engagement, ensuring that you remain helpful and professional at all times.

Software sales demos: mistakes to avoid

We’ve gone through some sales demo best practices. Now, here are some things to steer clear of when demonstrating software 👇

  • Lack of preparation - failing to thoroughly prepare can lead to a disorganised and ineffective presentation. Take the time to understand your audience and their needs before conducting the demo.
  • Overwhelming with features - presenting an exhaustive list of features can overwhelm and confuse potential customers. Instead, prioritise the most impactful features that directly address their pain points.
  • Ignoring customisation - failing to customise the demo to the prospect will make it feel generic and less compelling. Tailor the demo to showcase how your software can meet their unique requirements.
  • Lack of clarity in messaging - unclear or confusing messaging can lead to misunderstandings and hinder the prospect’s understanding of your software’s value prop. Ensure your messaging is clear and concise.
  • Not addressing objections - brushing off or dismissing objections raised during the demo will make your prospects look elsewhere. Take objections seriously and address them directly and thoughtfully.
  • Technical difficulties - failing to ensure that all the necessary tech and software are properly set up and functioning can result in technical difficulties during the demo. Test your equipment beforehand to avoid disruptions.
  • Lack of audience engagement - delivering a one-sided presentation without engaging the audience can lead to disinterest and reduced attention. Keep your prospects engaged by asking questions and involving them throughout the demo.
  • Poor pacing - speaking too quickly or too slowly, rushing through important points, or spending excessive time on irrelevant details can disrupt the demo’s flow. Practice and time your presentation to maintain an appropriate pace.
  • Neglecting visual aids - relying too much on verbal explanations without using visual aids, such as slides, screenshots, or videos, can make the demo less engaging and harder to follow.
  • Lack of follow-up plan - failing to have a clear follow-up plan after the software sales demo can result in missed opportunities. Establish a plan to address any questions, provide necessary resources, and guide potential customers through the sales process.

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